What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language disorder that hinders your ability to communicate with others. Often caused by stroke or a head injury, it can impact your ability to talk, write or understand words. When it occurs, aphasia can be both confusing and alarming for you.

Types of aphasia

Depending on your symptoms, aphasia is broken down into four primary categories:

  • Expressive aphasia: means you have trouble speaking or writing
  • Receptive aphasia: indicates that you have difficulty understanding what others are saying, or what you are reading
  • Amnesia aphasia: when you have trouble using the correct words or names for things
  • Global aphasia: a complete loss of ability to relay or understand language information or follow directions

Your physician may also refer to your aphasia as fluent or non-fluent.

Wernicke aphasia (fluent)

Most often resulting from damage to the left temporal lobe of your brain, fluent aphasia can cause you to speak in long, meaningless sentences that can involve made-up words. You may have particular difficulty understanding speech and be unaware of your own inability to communicate.

Broca aphasia (non-fluent)

Typically resulting from damage to the frontal lobe of your brain, this form of aphasia may cause you to speak in short phrases that make sense, but omit small words and require great effort on your part. For example, you may mean to say, “I will rest in my bed now," yet it may come out as “Will rest bed.” Often, you are able to understand others fairly well and are frustrated by your own impaired ability to communicate.

If someone you love develops aphasia, Northwestern Medicine is home to skilled neurologists*, speech therapists and other caring professionals who can provide the diagnosis, treatment and support you need.

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